Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Best Quotes of 2015

It's that time once again!  Time to take a look back on the year that has been by focusing on some of the awesome, weird, and downright stupid comments that I've overheard in 2015.

It's been a fun but trying 2015.  During this past year I've
  • Lost my last remaining grandparent
  • Started putting out weekly content on my blog
  • Was able to do a crossover review with my friend Looney
  • Had back surgery to correct a spinal protrusion
  • DJ'd a wedding for an awesome couple
  • Was able to finally meet my friend Daman in-person
I could go on about this year but that's not why you showed up today.  You showed up to laugh and be confused by people's comments.  As always I will keep these quotes anonymous so that I don't overly embarrass anyone who uttered them.   With that said, I present to you...

The Best Quotes of 2015

"So they have a grand baby boy....grand boy....grand.... what is it again?"

"Tabbed canvases are the spawns of Satan's a**."

"Everyone is all dressed up and I look like the guy buying kids beer behind the gas station."

"That's the only logical explanation for evolution: bananas."

"I'm so bored I'm thinking of a parody to 'It's Raining It's Pouring' to fit NASCAR to tell people how bored I am and post it on Facebook."

"I was tempted to put #Literacy #NotForEveryone but then didn't want to offend the illiterate but then... I guess they couldn't read that I offended them so..."

"I'm celebrating Earth Day by getting on a 757 and flying halfway across the country."

"I'm dying over here, the dongs are huge!"

"I always knew the difference between a hearty and a cowboy was five ounces."

"This house is a f***ing jubilee of clothes pins."

"Curiosity killed the cat and my head is in the bear trap.  I wanna see!"

"I cut my toenails today and I was like what in the heck is going on down there?!"

"I can already feel my arteries clogging up. I'm really excited."

"Friendship is a good knee touching"

"Did Nicos leave you?  Do you want me to break his kneecaps?"

"Did you know that if you divide me by Brandon you get Jake?  It's called people math!"

"Didn't you know? The world runs on black now."

"It's his fake birthday party but it's for the other reason."

"My palms are sweating like baboon's a**es"

"Just tried to start my car with mayonnaise."

"They made me drop my pickle.  B**tards!"

"Watch your mouth! We're in the Bible Belt...that lumberjack was f***ing hot though."

"Gin is the one I can't handle. It's like drinking a pine tree"

"I like when he said 'If I liked the taste of butt, I'd try butt'...or did he say Bud?"

"I wanted to be a fire truck growing up till I was told I couldn't grow a ladder."

"OH!  We've got love at this time of the night!"

"So THAT'S why I extended to 18 inches!"

"I think it's Stuart because he looks like the Grim Reaper"

"Dear Lord, please set this church on fire...  I mean... uh well you all know what I mean!"

"I had planned to sit around and do nothing today then go to Target to pick up typhoid."

"I have a super big vocabulary when I talk to people but not when I write."

"I'm going to grow the world's largest potato then live in it.  This is the story of a giant tuber, la la la something something something Jackie Chan!"

"Such a fruity statement... man talking to mom about theatre."

"It smelled like I was rubbing a candy cane all over me."

"HMG?  That sounds like something 16 year olds text to each other.  'HMG LOL'... little punks"

"That's like my natural odor!"

"If you have the cash and want a good time then go for it."

"I see no reason why your name isn't 'Cabby Walrus.'"

Also here's one fairly magnificent Auto-Correct fail to close us out today
And coolant is more than just ISIS
WTF
Violence not coolant
Intelligent conversation ruined once again by my auto cucumber

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That's it for 2015!  I hope you had fun looking back through all of the funny and bizarre statements over the last year.  Here's to another year worth of insanity!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ghost's Kitchen: Chocolate Pecan Pie

What's Cooking Today?

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Hello everyone and welcome to another segment of

Merry Christmas everyone!  There are only three days remaining till Christmas and everything that time of the year brings: awesome movies, family time, presents, and of course excellent cuisine!  Christmas is my favorite...er... well to be honest Christmas is now my second favorite time of the year.  Many of the things that made Christmas a magical and wonderful time of the year have slowly faded into memory and what remains just isn't the same.  I'm not sure if it's because so much has changed or if I've just been looking in the wrong place for the last few years.... anyway!  You all didn't come here today to hear my thoughts on Christmas you came here for food!

If there's one thing that won't ever change about Christmas (and Thanksgiving) is the abundance of good food both healthy and extremely unhealthy.  I could probably do half of a year's worth of food blog posts on Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner ideas.  One dish, however, stands miles above the rest; that dish is a chocolate pecan pie!  It is my absolute favorite desert of all time!  It's so special that I legitimately only get to eat it on ONE day every year, Thanksgiving.  Since it's my absolute favorite I would like to share my mother's recipe with you all so that hopefully you can also have a delicious holiday treat!  (Warning: Announcing that this dish is about to be made could result in the sudden appearance of yours truly at your home!)

Gather Your Ingredients
  • 1 large pie crust
  • 2/3rd cup sugar
  • 1/3rd cup melted butter
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of pecan halves (chopped works as well)
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • cooking spray (optional - will explain below)
  • microwave safe cup
  • bowl and fork
  • mixing bowl and mixing spoon
  • aluminum foil
    • If you have a pie crust cover you can use that instead of the aluminum foil
  • oven mitt



Starting Tip - If you're going to measure something very sticky such as the peanut butter or the corn syrup mentioned in this post, spray the measuring cup with cooking spray.  It will allow for the sticky substance to come out of the cup more quickly.




1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees

2. Beat Eggs
Crack your three eggs into a bowl and mix them together with a fork to give a semi-uniform look.

3. Melt Butter
Measure out 1/3rd cup of butter and place in a microwave safe bowl or cup.  (Most stick butter has measurements on the paper it's wrapped in)  Place the bowl in the microwave and heat until melted.  The power of your microwave may change the length of time to melt but it's generally between 15 and 45 seconds.

4. Combine all but chocolate and pecans.
Place the sugar, butter, corn syrub and eggs in a mixing bowl together.

5. Mix till uniform
With a spoon, mix the ingredients together until it is a uniform yellow consistency.

6. Add pecans and chocolate chips

7. Mix until uniform
Using your spoon mix the ingredients once more until it is uniform.

 8. Pour into pie crust
Make sure to smooth out the mixture so that it is flat.

9. Cover the crust edges
You will want to cover the crust edges so that the crust will not burn.  My mother has a crust cover as you can see above but if you do not have one of those then you can simply use aluminum foil to cover the edges

10. Bake for 35 minutes
Place pie in oven.  Feel free to place it on a cookie sheet if you would like.

11. Remove cover/foil and bake for approx 15 minutes
This will finish baking the pie and brown the crust.  Keep an eye on the pie once it hits the 12 or 13 minute mark and if the crust is getting too dark go ahead and pull the pie early.

12.  Remove pie from oven and let sit on counter till cool
You need to let it cool so that it can go in the refrigerator

13. Place pie in fridge for at least 3 hours before eating.
This will allow the pie to set so that it's not runny.


14.  Once cool, Cut pie and serve!

Extra Tip:  If you want your chocolate pecan pie to taste the best possible, you may want to get out a hot plate and keep it on warm.  Place your pie on the hot place an hour before eating it so that it's warm.  Pair with french vanilla ice cream or cool whip and prepare to have the best dessert ever!



There you have it!  It's not a difficult pie to make whatsoever it just takes quite awhile.  It's honestly my favorite dessert ever and I'm glad that I only get it once a year so that it doesn't become mundane.  Try this out for your family next time you have an outing and it's sure to be a success!

This is Ghost fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other food topics and recipes then simply click here!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ghost in the Case: The Man Who Came To Dinner

"My great aunt Jennifer ate a whole box of candy every day of her life.  She lived to be 102 and when she'd been dead for three days she looked better than you do now!"

Ghost here!  Thanks for joining me today for yet another

Well it's that wonderful time of the year again.  The time where people stress out over money, what to buy people, and how to organize seeing everyone rather than just relaxing and enjoying the Christmas season.  Christmas is probably my favorite time of year.  While I do adore Halloween, it just doesn't have that sense of excitement and wonder that Christmas holds.  Since this is my last movie review of the year and it's only ten days till Christmas I figured I would talk about a Christmas Movie.  While there are a multitude I could choose from I've decided to touch upon the one that only recently became a favorite of mine.
NO NO SWEET MERCIFUL HEAVENS NOT THAT!!

I am, of course, talking about 1942's classic The Man Who Came To Dinner.  It's very likely that many of you all have never heard of this film before.  I hadn't heard of it till one December when my parents had Turner Classic Movies on and this happened to appear.  It has everything you would expect from a Christmas movie such as an octopus, a group of convicted murderers, schemes to stop two people from falling in love, and more attitude and sass than I've ever seen in a movie.  What?  You don't think Christmas when you hear those things?  Well don't let some of the strangeness about the script bother you because this is most definitely a Christmas film and it is absolutely fantastic!

Normally I wait till after the story to say whether it's any good or not but this film is a hilarious masterpiece.  Let's take a look at exactly why it's so good shall we?

Story

Famous radio personality, Sheridan Whiteside (played my Monty Woolley) is on a cross-country lecture tour with his assistant Maggie Cutler (played by Bette Davis) when they are invited to dinner by a prominent Ohio family, the Stanleys, as a favor for a fellow colleague.  Whiteside, a very self-centered, overbearing, and sharp-tongued man, has absolutely no desire to go to this dinner but begrudgingly does for his friend.  Upon arriving at the Stanley's home, Whiteside slips on some ice and tumbles down the stairs injuring himself.  The local doctor has confined him to the Stanley's home during the days leading up to Christmas until his hip has had time to heal.  Within minutes of being wheeled out of his room, Whiteside has completely turned the Stanley's world upside down by demanding the exclusive use of the telephone, the main sitting room, the library, and dining room, along with several other demands.

As Whiteside attempts to continue his usual business from his wheelchair in the Stanley home, he meets Mr. Stanley's sister who presents him with a present, stares at him for a moment then leaves.  Whiteside is sure that he has seen her face before but doesn't have time to ponder upon it as Bert Jefferson, the local newspaper man has come calling for an interview.  After granting Jefferson an audience, Whiteside invites him to lunch which he is hosting for the Sheridan Whiteside Club at the Ohio State Penitentiary.  Being an authority on murder cases and trials, Whiteside has formed a sort of bond with convicted murderers.  The insanity continues as Whiteside keeps receiving more and more exotic gifts, keeps making extremely expensive long-distance phone calls, and invites men from the Chinese Embassy to dine one evening completely filling the house.

Meanwhile, Bert Jefferson and Maggie Cutler have started to spend a fair amount of time together.  After Bert reads Maggie the play he has written she decides she not only wants Whiteside to use his influence to put it into production but also desires to quit his employ as soon as he finds a suitable replacement so that she can stay with Bert and eventually marry him.  After this bombshell is dropped on Whiteside, the doctor comes to visit and explains that the x-rays he was looking at were the wrong ones and that Whiteside is well and able to leave at any point.  In a refusal to lose his best secretary, Whiteside convinces to the doctor to keep quiet about his health to extend his stay.  He also calls up an actress friend, Lorraine Sheldon, to inform her that Bert's play would be excellent for her but he needs her to show up in Ohio to convince Bert she is right for the part with the intention of Lorraine stealing Bert away from Maggie.  Lorraine accepts and Whiteside believes everything is going according to plan.

As Christmas Eve falls upon them, Whiteside is preparing for his Christmas Eve radio broadcast from the Stanley's home.  The Stanley's children speak to him about their ambitions; Richard wishing to be a traveling photographer, and June wishing to marry a man her father disapproves of.  Whiteside tells them to ignore their family's wishes and pursue their dreams causing them to leave that very night.  Lorraine finally arrives by train and heads off with Bert to look at the play he has written.  Maggie suspects Whiteside's involvement but gives him the initial benefit of a doubt.  With the help of another actor who came to visit, Beverly Carlton, Maggie attempts to trick Lorraine into heading to South Carolina with a fake marriage proposal over the phone.  However this plan backfires spectacularly as Whiteside figures out what has happened causing Lorraine to double her attempts to keep Bert and Maggie apart much to Bert's ignorance.  She eventually invites him to stay with her at Lake Placid for 3 weeks to work on the play.  He agrees much to his naivety.  Maggie leaves the house crying as the Stanley's discover what has happened to their children.

Christmas morning comes as something significantly less than happy.  While Mr. Stanley is off trying to find his children, Maggie comes down to explain to Whiteside that she is leaving on the 1 PM train never to see him again.  Whiteside realizes how badly he's screwed up and begins to think of a way out of this gigantic mess.  Just as this realization hits home thanks to a visit from his good friend Banjo, all Hades breaks loose in the Stanley household.  Mr. Stanley has taken out a warrant against Whiteside to have him forcibly evicted from his house within fifteen minutes!  Enlightenment, however, comes in the form of not only a gift sarcophagus from a higher-up in Egypt delivered to Whiteside, but Whiteside's recognition of exactly who Mr. Stanley's sister is.  Whiteside tricks Lorraine into posing inside the sarcophagus as Banjo slams it shut and leaves the house with it headed to Canada.  Whiteside gives his blessing to Maggie's love of Bert, and threatens Mr. Stanley that if he doesn't allow his children to follow their dreams he'll let slip to his radio audience Mr. Stanley's little secret.  Mr. Stanley's sister is actually an axe murderer who killed her parents.  Whiteside leaves all his gifts with the Stanley's and exits their house only to slip once more on the icy stairs and be brought back inside having injured his hip again!


What's Good About It?

The writing and characterization in this film are excellent.  Once you've watched this film you wouldn't be surprised in the least that it started off as a play on Broadway.  The quick wit and modern lingo of many of these fairly memorable characters is almost unparalleled from many films that I've watched from this time period.  There undoubtedly are other examples of such from older films but this is the best I've seen.  Bette Davis does an excellent job playing the antithesis of her normal film roles.  You can really feel for each of these characters they are that well written and acted.  Each character brings something fresh and interesting to the film from Lorraine's diva nature, to John and Sarah's humble serving of the family.

However the shining star of this whole film is Monty Woolley as Sheridan Whiteside.  Wooley is one of the only two people reprising their role from the Broadway show (the other is nurse Miss Preen) and it truly shows in his performance.  This is the role that he brought to life on Broadway for all those showings and though the studio tried to pick another man to be Whiteside, they chose correctly in picking the original man for the job.  Whiteside is a selfish, overbearing man who speaks whatever is on his mind no matter how nasty it is.  In many aspects he should be an absolutely despised character for being so cynical and hateful but Woolley brings such a charm to the character that you can't help but love every second he's on screen.  He is truly such a delight to watch that I am failing tremendously to put it in to words.  Sheridan Whiteside is the core of this film and your liking of it will begin and end with whether you like his character or not.  Sure there are other characters and things going on but this film is less about a situation and a group of characters as it is with one man being a beast, causing chaos then having to figure out how to undo the job he so adequately did.


What's Bad Weak About It?

This is another film where I truly cannot say that anything is bad with it.  It's quite an excellent film.  However the is one singular thing that people may consider weak about it.  Bette Davis has even said there was one weakness to the film which was that it was not imaginatively shot.  There is some justice to that statement because there is nothing overly artistic about how the actors were placed on the screen.  Don't get me wrong it does quite the adequate job, it's just that there is nothing particularly fresh or new.  That being said, it would be difficult for many people to be very imaginative in how to shoot a movie where 80% of it happens in one single room.  While this is excellent for a play because you don't need to move sets around this makes for some rather unexciting filming.  Luckily the characters and situation make up for any lack of imagination on the actual filming of the movie.  You may find it distracting to feel as though you are watching someone simply filming a play but I think it gave a sense of charm to the whole experience.

Sharp-Tongued Devil

Before I get to my conclusion, I just want to share with you some of my favorite lines of Sheridan Whiteside just so you can see why this character is a riot to watch on screen.

"I simply will not sit down with Mid-Western barbarians.  I think too highly of my digestive system."

"Stand back please, don't come too close!  I have several contagious diseases!"

"Take your fishhooks off me!"

"Will you take your clammy hand off my chair?  You have the touch of a love-starved cobra."

"Now will you all leave quietly or shall I ask Ms. Cutler to pass among you with a baseball bat?"

"Go in there and read the Life of Florence Nightingale and learn how unfitted you are for your chosen profession."

"Strange?  She's right out of The Hound of the Baskervilles!"

"If that's for Mrs. Stanley tell them she's too drunk to talk."

"There's nobody home!  The Stanley's have been arrested for peddling dope.  Go away!"

"There is only one point you make in which I see some slight justice.  I do not expect you to pay for my telephone calls and I shall see that restitution is made.  Can you provide me with the exact amount?  Good!  I shall instruct my lawyers to deduct it from the $150,000 that I am suing you for"

"Now look here, I am by nature a gracious and charming person.  I'm afraid that when we first met I was definitely unpleasant to you.  For that I am sorry and I wish that in the future you wouldn't treat me like something out of Edgar Allen Poe."

"Don't take that patronizing tone with me you flea-bitten Cleopatra."

"Doctor Bradley is the greatest living argument for mercy killing."

"Confound it June when are you going to learn that I'm always kind and courteous!  Bring this idiot in!"

"Suppose your parents aren't happy with you.  It's good for them.  It develops their characters."

"Shut your nasty little face!"

"As long as I live I shall never do anyone a good turn ever again."

"Yes, the enemy is at my rear and nibbling!"

"I have fifteen minutes... fourteen minutes to pull out of my hat the most gigantic rabbit you've ever seen."

"Is there any cyanide in this orange juice, John?  Go open the door John it's probably some mustard gas from an old friend."

Conclusion

The Man Who Came To Dinner is a fantastic film.  The fact that it can be centered around such a man as Sheridan Whiteside and we can still find him perfectly charming and amusing is a testament to the script writers.  It's something that never ceases to amuse me no matter how many times I watch it.  The contrast of such a cynical man portrayed at such a joyous time of year has always been of interest to people, hence the popularity of films such as Bad Santa and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Sure at first glance this movie doesn't sound like it has a lot to do with Christmas, but then again films such as Miracle on 34th Street and It's A Wonderful Life are Christmas Classics yet both only brush past "normal" Christmas themes.  It's A Wonderful Life is the story about a man tired of his life being shown what the world would be like without him; it just happens to take place at Christmas.  Miracle on 34th Street is mostly about a man being involved in a family's life while being Santa Claus at Macy's which then turns into a large court case to see if he's  the real Santa or not... ok maybe that's not a good example but you get the point.  Several Christmas films aren't in your face with Christmas cheer or sappy moments, and this is one of them.  The Man Who Came To Dinner is mostly about Sheridan Whiteside's interference in people's lives but it just happens to take place at Christmas.

If you don't mind black and white movies, can enjoy cynicism and the occasional polite nastiness for comedic effect then this may just be something you'll enjoy as well!  It's a Christmas Must-Watch for me and my family and I hope you will enjoy it as well!

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other Movie and Television reviews/recommendations then simply click here!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ghost's Arcade: Mario Needs to Let Go of the Past



Ghost here, thanks for joining.

Mario is one of the most recognized and beloved gaming icons in existence today.  He is the face of an entire company and has sold approximately 507 million games (as of the writing of this piece) from his various adventures and sub-genres.  Mario is a colossus of the video game industry that few franchises have come remotely close to. With so many millions of games sold, the Mario franchise should have some of the best games imaginable, right?  Well... no actually.  Despite the fame and profitability, the Mario franchise is full of quite frankly sub-par games.  I'm not talking outliers here as every franchise has a few stinkers lying about... I'm talking the majority of them are simply not that great outside of a few pockets of series under the Mario sphere of influence.

I realize that this is highly a matter of opinion and that many would say, based on the franchise's sale records, that my opinion is the minority or even completely wrong.  However, I'm going to spend this post defending my statement and providing and over-arching theory as to why the Mario games are less than appealing. I do this with the hope that maybe one day these "problems" will be corrected.  I would love for the Mario series to actually earn its "best selling franchise" title.  Mario has the potential to be worthy of the praise and sales but constantly falls short of the mark.  Why is that?  Well it's my theory that the creative minds behind the series are getting far too stuck on nostalgia rather than moving forward with their ideas.  In other words, Mario needs to let go of the past.

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Before I explain this theory I feel it is prudent to first share my thoughts on several of the main Mario titles available just so you know where I stand.  If this doesn't interest you then feel free to skip this section as it is quite lengthy.  *Note - I will not be mentioning every single Mario game here.  I will simply be aiming at the most recognizable ones with Mario as the main lead.  If you are curious, however, I find the Luigi's Mansions games and Captain Toad quite enjoyable whereas I tend to lump the Yoshi and Wario games together in a "not quite crap" category*

Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, and Super Mario World
These games are absolute classics that laid the ground work (and improved upon said groundwork) of the franchise.  Please note that while I said they were classics I never said anything about them being good.  I realize that many people absolutely adore these games and if you are one of those people I understand why.  For me however, the gameplay mechanics which were wonderful at the time have aged very poorly.  I find them archaic to be honest with you.  Normally an old game just being old wouldn't be a problem but some of these archaic gameplay mechanics keep cropping up to this very day when they really shouldn't as I shall explain later on.  I also find these games insanely difficult; so difficult that I have actually never made it past World 1 on any of these titles.  Not a fan, but I get it if you are.

Super Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario RPG
Here are a couple of interesting diversions from the norm early on in the series' lifetime.  I tend to label these as "kind of" Mario games as opposed to true Mario titles.  Why?  Well Super Mario Bros 2 is actually a re-skin of a Japanese game Doki Doki Panic because Nintendo of America thought the actual Mario Bros 2 was too difficult for an American audience.  Super Mario RPG is a completely different direction for gameplay and is basically a gigantic love letter to Final Fantasy.  That's not to say that they aren't good... or at least that's not to say that RPG isn't good.  Super Mario RPG is absolutely fantastic and laid the ground work for the Paper Mario series to follow.  Super Mario Bros 2 however is only slightly better than bad at it's best.  I don't really enjoy it but it did introduce some elements to the series that still show up today such as the turnips and how each hero plays differently; these are elements that I enjoy in the series.

Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine
I've grouped these together because I feel they are opposite sides of the same coin in many aspects.  One is a well beloved classic adored by many when it doesn't necessarily deserve that title while the other is an often forgotten game that probably deserves more attention than it ever got.  Super Mario 64 is a pioneer in the realm of 3D platforming gameplay and should be praised for not only that but introducing the health meter into a non-RPG Mario title.  It's something that began a new wave of ingenuity for gaming as a whole...but that's about the end of the good things I can say about it.  I found the game to be quite difficult to control at times with a camera that is next to non-functional.  I was honestly quite bored with this game... it never gripped me.  Super Mario Sunshine on the other hand had a fairly ludicrous story that would make a five year old chuckle but it included an interesting new mechanic with the F.L.U.D.D. as well as a unique setting in the Isle Delfino.  The controls and camera were responsive and I actually was fully interested in the game from start to finish.

Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2
I'll go ahead and say it.  Super Mario Galaxy is (so far) the pinnacle of Mario games.  Honestly everything since Galaxy has come out has been a step backwards or a side-step.  Mario hasn't been able to progress any further than Galaxy.  With Galaxy, Mario didn't necessarily grow with leaps and bounds in the story department, but rather in the gameplay department.  The game was fun, inventive, and included new mechanics such as the spinning and star bit shooting as well as a unique feeling of gravity on each planet or section visited.  While it still had a few game ideas from the long past, overall most irritations could be ignored completely because of how good this game was.  It's a pity that they haven't grown since this point.  Every game released since Galaxy has been either the same thing (Galaxy 2) or a step backwards into the past (all other main Mario titles)

Paper Mario Series and Mario & Luigi Series
NOW we're talking!  These sets of games are, for the most part, absolutely brilliant.  Everything that the normal Mario games lack, these games have in abundance.  These games have actually included real personality and character development into the characters from the Mushroom Kingdom.  In fact, 90% of Princess Peach's and Bowser's character development comes from these games alone.  These games do new and exciting things with the gameplay mechanics that the main series just simply doesn't have the guts to explore or try.  These games also house a sizable quantity of humor which is absent from the very vanilla main series.  I'm calling these games brilliant not simply because of the RPG elements to them (though that certainly helps), but rather because they shake things up and take risks.  However...main game shenanigans randomly appear at times in these games to such as Super Paper Mario abandoning the turn-based RPG style for mostly 2D platforming gameplay for absolutely no reason. 

Mario Kart Series
Racing Perfection!  I've already made a blog post about how these games are simply too perfect so I wont say much else here.  If you want to play a racing game then pick up one of these titles immediately... especially Mario Kart 8.




Mario Party Series and Mario Sports Series
A waste of your time and money.  Mario sports games are an attempt to recapture the greatness they achieved with Mario Kart by exploring other sporting events... with little to no success.  They can be fun but are mostly not worth your time.  Mario Party games are basically the equivalent of gambling with the only possible outcome is to be unsuccessful, completely screwed, or absolutely f****d!  Don't waste any time or money on this.

New Super Mario Bros Series, Super Mario 3D World, and Super Mario Maker
Rehashes of the original Mario game concepts (or in 3D World's case a sort of pairing between Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario 64) with very few improvement over the original concept except for pure aesthetics.  The one improvement that DID come about was some admittedly inventive motion control additions here and there, so that's nice.  If you are a fan of the original Mario games you may find comfort and enjoyment from the same old shtick.  If you, like me, do not enjoy them then these are fairly worthless.  As a side note, yes I realize Super Mario Maker gives you the ability to make your own levels which is not something a Mario game has let you do before but there have been thousands of programs to create your own Mario levels online which give you a bountiful harvest more features for free as opposed to this $60 title. 

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Now that you understand my viewpoint on the Mario series as a whole till now (or now that you've skipped that nonsense) let's take a closer look at some of these ideas from the past that just keep cropping up and are stopping Mario from being the success he should be.

Archaic Gameplay Ideas

It goes without saying that Super Mario Bros for the NES is a dated game.  The technology to make amazing games that we have today just wasn't available back in 1985.  While I can complain that Super Mario Bros is far too difficult of a game for me, that complaint will never change the fact that it was a technical achievement at the time.  It was a good game based on the limitations they had and the gameplay they needed to make based on those quickly changing limitation.  However, one question remains.  Why on earth have some of these same design choices and requirements remained around to this very day?  I'm not talking about the act of jumping on an enemy to defeat them.  That's a simple enough design choice that has truly become Mario's bread and butter; I wouldn't ask for that to be changed.  I'm talking about other portions of gameplay.

Why is the multi-segment health bar which was first given to us in 1996 with Super Mario 64 not the default setting for all Mario games?  If not the default setting why is this not, at least, an option for all Mario games whether 2D platforming or any other non-RPG style Mario game?  One of the biggest reasons I find the original Mario games so insanely difficult is the demand for perfection that those games require.  The games are designed to require a practically perfect run by only allowing you 1-3 hits before death depending on your power ups at the time.  Many gamers today just simply don't have the skill required to complete games like this without a little extra health buffer.  Heck, I'd say that many gamers back in the 80's didn't have the skill level required either.  With Nintendo's continued emphasis on drawing the casual consumer to their products, I find it baffling that they haven't accounted for the lower skill level of these casual consumers with their flagship series at least as an optional selection

Speaking of the health system and taking damage, why are we still losing our power-up after one hit 30 years later?  With the original game, if you possessed the Fire Flower but accidentally touched an enemy you would lose the fire flower ability.  While I'm not sure if this was a stylistic choice or some sort of necessary evil at the time of development, what I AM sure about is that this should have ended a long time ago.  Yet, 30 years later we keep losing our special ability the second we fall prey to an enemy.  Generally this results in the level becoming insanely difficult if not impossible until we can find another power-up, or (more likely) die and have to re-start the level.  This should not be.  The Mario franchise has, for quite awhile, been treating these power-ups as a sort of alternate form for Mario.  Mario grabs a fire flower and becomes "Fire Mario."  What the series needs to do is take notes from other franchises with alternate forms.

For example, Banjo Kazooie has a game mechanic where Banjo can transform into different things via magic.  Banjo can turn into a crocodile and has various abilities and benefits as a crocodile for that particular level similar to how Mario has benefits and abilities as Cat Mario.  When Banjo is attacked by an enemy he doesn't lose his crocodile form.  He doesn't have to head back to Mumbo Jumbo to transform back into a crocodile then carefully make his way back to where he was before to continue.  He just takes the hit, loses some health, and keeps on trucking as a crocodile.   This is how Mario power-ups should be handled. If you are Fire Mario you stay as Fire Mario unless you choose to terminate the ability.  Another idea would be to make the power-ups only last for a few minutes but can be reactivated at any point indefinitely.  Obviously something like Rainbow Mario and the Super Star would not apply here as that would be game breaking.

Lastly, would it kill Mario to have the ability to block/guard outside of the RPG style games?  Everything I've just complained about would be really nice to have but would almost become unnecessary if Mario had the ability to block attacks.  If he could block attacks he wouldn't lose as much health nor would he lose his power up... provided you block at the right moment.  BAM!  You'd instantly have a superior game with the tiniest of changes.  Now I realize some of you may be thinking that adding a blocking mechanic in a 2D platforming game would somewhat fundamentally change the point of the genre because the point of 2D platforming is to avoid enemies and navigate through screens with precision.  To that I point you in the direction of Super Paper Mario.  While it does have a larger health bar than classic Mario games it is predominately a 2D platformer where your goal is to avoid damage and navigate through screens defeating enemies along the way.   Princess Peach has the ability in this game to use her parasol to block all enemy attacks no matter how big or small at the cost of her mobility.  While blocking she cannot move at all.  She is a godsend in that game for this ability and it is something that should be shared with the rest of the franchise on a universal scale.

Overused Story

Non-traditional Mario games like Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario, and Mario & Luigi tend to have varied and experimental plots at times.  While they may not be the absolute most original things on the face of the planet they are leagues better than the main Mario series games.   The storyline of the main Mario series is so stale it's practically mummified!  Not sure what I'm talking about?   Let's take a look at each of the main Mario series titles (and a few that are questionable in their placement) and see if there's any similar themes among them

Super Mario Bros (1985) - Bowser kidnaps the princess
Super Mario Bros 2 (1988) - Mario, Peach, Luigi, and Toad must save the dream world from Wart
Super Mario Bros 3 (1988) - Bowser has taken over the Mushroom Kingdom and kidnaps the princess
Super Mario Land (1989) - Tatanga has kidnapped a different princess
Super Mario World (1990) - Bowser kidnaps the princess
Super Mairo Land 2 (1992) - Wario has taken over Mario's Woods while he is away in the previous game.
Super Mario 64 (1996) - Bowser kidnaps the princess
Super Mario Sunshine (2002) - Mario is impersonated and is sentenced to clean the island... then Bowser Jr. kidnaps the princess
Super Princess Peach (2005) - Bowser kidnaps Mario and Luigi
New Super Mario Bros(2006) - Bowser Jr. kidnaps the princess
Super Mario Galaxy (2007) - Bowser kidnaps the princess and her castle taking them to outer space
New Super Mario Bros Wii (2009) - Bowser kidnaps the princess
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010) - Bowser kidnaps the princess and her castle taking them to outer space
Super Mario 3D Land (2011) - Bowser kidnaps the princess
New Super Mario Bros 2 (2012) - Bowser kidnaps the princess
New Super Mario Bros U (2012) - Bowser invades the caste and tosses Mario and Luigi far away
Super Mario 3D World (2013) - Bowser has kidnapped a group of fairies.

 
...are you KIDDING ME?!?!

You mean to tell me out of the 17 main Mario titles only 5 of them don't ultimately involve rescuing a princess?  Of those 5, Super Princess Peach is just a role reversal and 3D World he's still kidnapping something...which leaves us 3 that are actually different   As previously stated however, Mario 2 is actually a re-skin of a different game so that one (at least in my mind) shouldn't count here as they just used the plot of the original Doki Doki Panic.... which leave us 2 that are different.   Super Mario Land 2 and New Super Mario Bros U are the only legit ones in the whole series that are a change from the formula.   Even at that, New Super Mario Bros U only gets a half pass cause Bowser has still technically taken the princess he just took her and stayed put rather than taking her to his castle. 

As a contrast, let's take a look at the more RPG styled Mario games and see what their plots have to offer us.

Super Mario RPG (1996) - A large sword crashes into Bowser's castle and scatters Mario, Bowser, and the Princess across the world.  They must band together with Mallow and Geno to defeat Smithy and restore Star Road.
Paper Mario (2000) - Bowser kidnaps the princess
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (2003) - Fawful and Cackletta steal Peach's voice and take it to the Beanbean Kingdom to awaken a wish-granting star for Cackletta to rule the world with.
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (2004) - Sir Grodus of the X-nauts kidnaps the princess but is ultimately trying to gather the Crystal Stars to open the Thousand Year Door and unleash the evil within.
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (2005) - Princess Peach takes a time machine into the past where the Past Mushroom Kingdom is being invaded by aliens.  She is kidnapped by the alien leader in the past.  Mario and Luigi team up with their baby selves to save her.
Super Paper Mario (2007) - Count Blek unleashes the Chaos Heart to destroy all worlds.  It is up to Mario, Luigi, Bowser, and Peach to collect the Pure Hearts to stop the Chaos Heart and defeat the enemy who isnt the one you're expecting
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (2009) - During an outbreak of a disease, Fawful puts his world domination plan into effect by giving Bowser a mushroom that causes him to inhale Mario, Luigi, Peach and others.  Mario and Luigi must work inside Bowser to awaken him etc while Bowser fights off Fawful to get back the Mushroom and Koopa Kingdoms.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star (2012) - When stickers are spread all over the place due to an accident, Mario sets off to repair a torn world.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (2013) - Antasma kidnaps the princess
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (2015 *not released in America yet) - Bowser and Paper Bowser kidnap the princess

The plots to the RPG styled Mario games speaks volumes more than you may even realize at first.  While the princess may be kidnapped in 50% of these games... it's only 50% of them as opposed to the 88.3% in the main series games.  Also, if you notice, that only three of these plots can be summed up so briefly as to simply say "X kidnaps the princess."  The Thousand Year Door and Partners in Time have other things going on that distract you from the fact that the princess has been captured due to the gravity or strangeness of the situation  The 50% that do NOT have the princess being captures are all incredibly unique for a Mario game and many times are inventive to boot.  Obvious time and effort have gone in to crafting the plots for these games; time that clearly isn't spent on the main series games.  However these plots also reveal the point I'm trying to make.  If you notice, of the three which can be easily summed up as "X kidnaps the princess," the first is the very first Paper Mario game which can be somewhat forgiven as they made an effort to make the Paper Mario series more diverse in plot after that game.  However the other two simplified plots can be found right at the end.  The latest two games of the Mario & Luigi series see them somewhat abandoning their unique stories and jumping right back into the stagnant sewage that is simply rescuing the princess.  Yes, I am making that assumption based on wiki pages for Paper Jam.  It's just another move in the constant trend of keeping even the most unique entries of the Mario franchise in check with the predictability of the franchise. 


If variety is, in fact, the spice of life then the main Mario series is a scoop of vanilla ice cream on a rice cake.  It's not a bad thing to eat but it's the most soulless thing you can find.  I sincerely hope that the main series can take inspiration from its RPG counterparts and being including unique and engaging plots outside of saving the princess.  I also hope that the trend I see towards the end of the RPG styled games comes to a stop and they go back to having their unique stories.  Mario needs to take risks with its plot.  Sure that means that you may end up with a sub-par story here and there but I would much rather have a bizarre or poor story that is very unique than a good story being tainted by extreme over use and stagnation.  This is why I've grown a love for Super Mario Sunshine over the years.  Yes it ultimately came down to Bowser Jr. kidnapping the princess but before that it was a mystery of a false identity making the island messy and Mario having to clean it up to clear his name.  It wasn't necessarily a really good plot/mystery but it was something different and I appreciate it so much for that very fact.

Bland Characterization

Once again I'm going to be saying that the main games need to pull inspiration from their RPG counterparts so I'm going to be more brief here.

Within the main Mario series, the four major characters of the Mushroom Kingdom don't really have that much personality to them.  I can easily state their personalities in two words or fewer. Mario - Generic Hero, Luigi - Timid, Peach - Sugary Sweet, Bowser - Evil  Now some of you may be saying that the ability to summarize a character into a couple words isn't an indicator of poor characterization.  That is true.  For example, Han Solo from Star Wars is "the rebel," Izzy Izumi from Digimon is "the braniac,"  and Baynetta is "the sexy one."   The difference here is that Han Solo is more than just a rebel.  You can go into detail about his personality and the things he enjoys.  Calling him "the rebel" is simply a summary of his various character traits.  When it comes to Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Bowser... those words I used are NOT summaries.  That's just all there is to them.

That's not to say that having a happy hero, a timid hero, a pleasant damsel, and a big evil bad guy is a horrible thing.  It's just so incredibly generic... especially when you compare them to the RPG style games which gave far more character to each of them.  While Mario hasn't developed all that much in the RPG games, you still get to see him react with frustration and confusion and true elation.  From these games you can kind of get the impression that he's a happy hero type because he's a little bit thick.  You get to see a few layers to Mario that you don't see in the main games where you're lucky to get a single look of surprise when Bowser kidnaps the princess for the 15th time.  With Luigi you see that he has some true fears and insecurities.  He has a bit of a complex due to always being deep in his brother's shadow though he doesn't hold that against Mario.  Peach and Bowser are explored WAY more in the RPG games than in the regular.  Peach we find out is hesitant but willing to help out when she needs to.  She can and will lose her temper at things but always strives to take the path of being nice to everyone because that's what she has chosen to do.  She's also quite a bit naive.  Bowser isn't all that evil.  Sure he has his ambitions that are generally more aligned with evil but when something threatens the whole world including his own people he'll step up and play the part of the hero as well.  He's fairly prideful of his power and ability, not going to stand down to any challenge, and he's not necessarily the brightest of characters.

I'm not saying that we need the Mario game equivalent of a novel to fully explore all of these character developments.  I'm just saying that the main games need to open a door a little bit to the enhancements they have given the characters, especially in the larger 3D games like Galaxy.  Just a few hints, reactions, and scenarios to let us see more into these wonderful character's minds and souls.  Let us know that they aren't just mindless robots doomed to repeat the same actions over and over with the same bland reactions.

My Ideal Mario Game

I've always been told to not complain unless I can provide feedback for a better way to do it.  Though I haven't always followed that advice, in this instance I do have an idea for what to do.  Believe it or not, many of the elements in my idea are already in the Mario series as a whole.  It's more just putting together the best bits and getting rid of the worst bits.  I now present to you my ideal Mario game.

The Plot
There is an ancient and (mostly) forgotten part of Mario's world.  Within a temple holds the eight relics which keep the various realms of the universe in balance.  Their power makes sure the eight realms remain intact regardless of what may happen in a single realm; they must not be disturbed.  An outside force has learned of these relics and intends to throw the universe into chaos in order to set himself up as the ruler in the midst of the confusion.  He finds the eight relics and smashes them to pieces scattering them across the realms.  As he does this, everything turns upside down as aspects, people and locations from various realms start appearing in different parts of the other.  Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Bowser are brought together by an ancient spirit and are tasked with finding the relic pieces and defeating the evil to restore peace to the universe.   Along their journey, they pick up Rosaina and Yoshi and eventually defeat the evil mastermind through their combined efforts.

Characters and Abilities
There would be 6 playable characters each with their own strengths and unique properties that you can swap between at will.  Each will have a special skill that the others do not have in order to progress through the world properly or discover hidden secrets.



Mario - Well Balanced Speed and Strength - Fireball Projectile Attack - Capable of using a Mega Mushroom to move or destroy large objects
Luigi - Increased speed, Decreased Traction, Highest Jump - Fireball Projectile Attack - Capable of using the Poltergust to remove Boos from doorways and treasure chests.
Peach - Decreased Strength and Weight, combo finisher sends enemies flying - Turnip Projectile Attack - Capable of floating over chasms
Bowser - Decreased speed, Double Strength - Fireball Projectile Attack - Capable of using Flame Breath to remove obstacles or melt ice.
Rosalina - Decreased Strength, Increased Speed - Starbit Projectile Attack - Capable of smashing through blocks and barriers with a spin attack.
Yoshi - Flutter Jump - Fireball Spit Attack - Capable of shooting egg projectiles at a targeted area.

Gameplay
This would be a 3D world similar to that of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine which would mean falling out of the world would be at a minimum.  The characters would share a multi-hit health bar among them.  Each character will have the ability to jump on top of enemies heads.  Each character would have their own personalized 3-hit combo of physical attacks they could use against enemies such as Mario doing 3 punches or Bowser doing 2 slashes and a headbutt.  When surrounded by enemies, each character can jump into the air and perform their own version of the ground pound move.  Most importantly, each character would have the ability to block against enemy attacks without taking damage. Power-ups will still be present in the game and are sometimes needed to progress to the end of the level, but they will be treated like badges or switches on the character that can be turned on and off at will.  No more losing your power-up if you are struck by an enemy. 

There would be 8 worlds.  Mushroom Kingdom, Isle Delfino, Yoshi's Island, Luigi's Mansion, The Galaxy, The Past, Koopa Kingdom, and The Forgotten Realm.  Each of the 8 worlds would have 8 levels for you to progress through finding a piece of the relic at the end either by solving a puzzle or defeating a boss who holds the relic piece.  Along your way there will be obstacles and puzzles to solve that only certain characters can accomplish such as a pathway hidden by ice would need Bowser to thaw it.  The Past realm would be our solitary look back to the past as each level would be representative of a different game from Mario's past.  The game would change in tone slightly as it would become 2D side scrolling gameplay for the levels representative of those games (while still having the attacks and health bar just like the rest of the game.)

So there you have it.  That would be my ideal Mario game.  Most of these elements have been done in some form before but not all together in the same game.  It just simply has all of the sub-par elements removed.  I hope you would love to play this game as much as I would although I doubt I'll ever get to see anything like it.

Conclusion

Excuse the long barnyard analogy.   The main Mario series is like a one trick pony.  It does that one trick well; it's mastered that one thing it does better than any other pony attempting it.  However seeing the same trick over and over just gets boring.  Sure you will always want to bring out the old one trick pony every now and then because you still love that little pony, but why on earth would you consistently bring out the one trick pony when there are other horses in the stable that know multiple tricks and are capable of learning new ones all the time?  Perhaps if you were to breed the one trick pony with the multi-trick pony you would get something better than the individual horses.

That's what I've been getting at.  While the RPG Mario games have been mostly flourishing in a vast ocean of originality, the main series has stagnated and congealed.  I truly hope that Nintendo can take some of the brilliance poured into both the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series and put a little bit into the main games.  At the end of the day, I love Nintendo products.  I like Mario but I certainly don't love his stagnation.  I truly want his main series games to come to a point where I choose the new Nintendo System Bundle with the Mario game because I can't wait to play another great Mario title instead of only choosing that bundle because  "eh... it's something to play till Smash comes out I guess."   Mario is capable of greatness and it's my sincere hope that he can once again achieve it.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ghost's Kitchen: Leftover Breakfast Sandwich

What's Cooking Today?
A Leftover Breakfast Sandwich

Hello everyone and welcome to another segment of

Leftovers.  Leftovers are sometimes considered a culinary dirty word for the simple fact that people can get tired of eating the same thing multiple times in a week whether it be re-heating an already cooked meal or trying to find something to do with the extra raw ingredients you didn't end up using.  Trying to find creative ways to re-use the same exact thing can be tiring.  I fully understand this even when it's not concerning leftovers.  For example we generally buy the 4lbs bag of tilapia fillets which gives my family of two about 15 different fish dinners and when I've only really come up with two ways of preparing it so far...that's a LOT of the same old stuff.

Sometimes you just need a little bit of a boost.  Even if it's nothing incredibly ground-breaking, even something as simple as a new presentation of the same dish could be just that little something you need to get you out of your rut.  That's exactly where today's "recipe" came from.  My wife and I occasionally have breakfast foods for dinner but we always have leftover eggs and bacon because the pair of us can't eat THAT many eggs and bacon strips in one meal.  In an attempt to breathe fresh life into something I semi-regularly eat I came up with this interesting idea.  A Leftover Breakfast Sandwich.

Why a sandwich?  Because...
 Ok now that I've got THAT out of my system... let's get to the actual sandwich

Gather Your Ingredients
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 2 Slices of Bacon (Turkey Bacon also fine)
  • 2 Frozen Toaster Waffles
  • Pancake Syrup
  • Salt/Pepper/Other Optional Seasonings for Egg
  • Toaster
  • Frying Pan/Skillet
  • Cooking Spray
  • Spatula/Turner
  • Plate
1. Fry your Bacon
Set your stove eye on medium heat and spray your skillet with a small bit of cooking spray.  Fry your bacon to the preferred crispiness.  A lot of people like crunchy bacon but I honestly thing that's a disgrace to bacon.  If your bacon can shatter at the slightest touch you're overcooking your bacon.  Try cooking it to the point that it is done but can still somewhat bend.  It'll do  you a world of good!

2. Set Bacon Aside and Spray Skillet Again if necessary.
Set your cooked bacon aside on a plate.  You may want to lower your stove eye to Medium Low heat so that your egg does not become burned in any way.  If you trust your skillet at medium heat then feel free to leave it there.  If you are using regular bacon there may still be enough spray and bacon grease in the skillet to do fine for the egg that's about to come.  If you don't think there is enough or you used Turkey Bacon like I did then hit the skillet with some extra cooking spray.

3. Put Frozen Waffles in Toaster
Go ahead and place your waffles in the toaster.  They will be done by the time your egg is ready.  If they are done a little bit before then that's fine because the "bun" of this sandwich doesn't need to be blistering hot fresh out of the toaster.  If you need to know what setting to put your toaster on then consult the box of waffles.

4. Fry your egg
Crack one Large egg into the skillet.  Add your Salt, Pepper and any other seasoning you may wish to add (I sometimes like to drop a little pinch of garlic powder on my eggs).  Cook the egg until it is done to your satisfaction.  I personally prefer Over Medium eggs where the white is completely done and the yolk is runny but thick.  To achieve this simply allow the egg to get mostly cooked on the bottom like in the picture above and them simply flip the egg over and let it sit till the portion now above the yolk starts to become less "wobbly"  if you can touch the egg with your turner and it moves easier than jello it's not quite there yet.  Something slightly sturdier than a jello jiggle is what you're looking for with Over Medium eggs.  If you cook it too long it won't matter it'll just be a firm yolk and still just as delicious.

5. Once Egg is cooked, Pick up egg with spatula/turner and place on the plate
This ensures that your egg does not get overly done while you are assembling your sandwich.

6. Start Building Sandwich - Add Syrup
Place one waffle on the plate and top with a small amount of syrup.  I only placed this amount because my egg yolk was going to be runny and add moisture to the sandwich.  If you do not want a runny yolk then feel free to add more syrup to your sandwich.

7. Break and Stack Your Bacon.
Break your bacon in half and stack it so that it makes a nice little "nest" for the egg.

8. Place Egg on Top of Bacon
Top with your Fried Egg.  This would be a good spot for a small dab of extra syrup if you would like to do so!

9. Top With Other Waffle and Enjoy!

I probably should have put a little bit more syrup on the sandwich than what I did but I really didn't want syrup dripping all over the place and with the small amount I put on there I didn't have a single bit of rogue syrup!

This wasn't anything too terribly difficult or unique but it was something fun and different to do.  Maybe you can do this for your family as a change of pace and see what they think of your breakfast sandwich.  Perhaps this will do nothing more than get your imagination going about how to find a new way to present the same old stuff.

This is Ghost fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other food topics and recipes then simply click here!